Operative Traditions

 Miguel Angel Fernandez

Forthcoming, March 2017

Evola, Aristocracy, AristokratiaThe aim of Operative Traditions is to recover and present to the readers a perspective on Tradition which has been mysteriously veiled during the last centuries whilst other aspects on Tradition have been much more emphasized. We are referring to the operative[1] aspect of Tradition, the framework for all those individuals in our times who feel a kinship with the worldviews present in the Traditionalist domain, yet who also feel the challenge of applying such ideas in the specific conditions of modern existence.

Though the symbols of Tradition are eternal, the capacity of such transcendent power to magically direct the artistic developments taking place at a material or human level can eventually become exhausted, and the metaphysical tension can ultimately extinguish. One of the main consequences of the weakening of this golden operative thread was that it abruptly affected the human vision on the cosmos, and this mutation of perception was expressed in the genesis of modern science, where any question in regard to the developments, aims and synthetic aspects of the most diverse scientific domains not only become harder to answer but were no longer asked or posited by a huge percentage of the specialists and experts who developed scientific knowledge itself…

* * *

The fundamental ideas on Tradition were recovered by eminent figures (René Guénon, Julius Evola, Titus Burckhardt, etc.) during the last century, but it is crucial to take into account that Western men had also inherited specific spiritual predispositions at an operative level which were highly influenced by their intergenerational and progressive subjection to modern technique, science, and propaganda, as well as the reinforced set of habits and customs inherited through progressive individual exposure to the technical conditions present amidst the typically urban-industrial environments. These predispositions caused a considerable gap between the frameworks provided by the aforementioned Traditionalists and the instinctive/subconscious operative predispositions of modern men.

The gap had also considerably widened because many of the speculative approaches on Tradition arrived during the last century from the East, embedded generally by conceptual and paradigmatic structures that are alien to the Western conceptual mindsets and to the original character present in the cultural roots of the West. As it is pointed out in Operative Traditions, the techno-industrial development taking place after the Industrial Revolution corresponds to a unique historical operative process, qualitatively different than any of the former technological developments taken place in other civilizations, both in the West as in the East. And yet in Operative Traditions, in parallel to a strictly didactic exposition, we shall also follow the important accounts of the German philosopher, Eugen Herrigel (1884-1955), who in his most important book, Zen and the Art of Archery, provides a deep and extremely appealing account of the experiences he went through when being in contact with the Zen Tradition that was still alive during the 1930s in Japan.


          Structure of Operative Traditions


One important aspect of this book, which is directly linked to the aim of recovering the principles required for establishing Tradition in operative terms, is that of fusing, synthesising and integrating for the reader as briefly and didactic as possible the most unknown – yet very crucial – aspects of the works of the Italian philosopher and esotericist Baron Julius Evola (1898-1974), and the German writer and World War I hero, Ernst Jünger (1895-1998).

Julius Evola is highly regarded in the Traditionalist cultural domain mostly because of his views on politics, culture, sex and esotericism, which all embraced standpoints very much in opposition to the subversive movements at a political and State level taking place in modern times. Yet, surprisingly enough, there is still remaining in our 21st century times a facet of the Italian thinker which is generally dismissed… It refers to the fact that Julius Evola developed a whole body of philosophical thought, mostly during the 1920s-1930s, where he succeeded in reintroducing the operative elements existent in Tradition within a philosophical framework that is strictly adapted to the Western conceptual mindset. This philosophical endeavour was initially intended to be a philosophical reaction against the highly speculative philosophies or “transcendental idealisms” present in Western thought (Hegel, Kant, Schelling), so at first, the Italian author coined such philosophical development as “Magical Idealism”, in a publication[2] still tinged with esoteric components drawn from other non-Western Traditions. Yet in his following works, Evola developed the “Theory of the Absolute Individual” and the “Phenomenology of the Absolute Individual”, two volumes which set the basis for a new empirical/practical process of dominion of reality.

None of these important works of Evola have been published in English. Such works, however, exhaust completely all the questions and contradictions arisen by the developments of Western philosophy until the 20th century, revealing a method for attaining absolute certitude, and contrarily to almost all the speculative and idealistic approaches to the key philosophical and epistemological issue of certitude, Evola no longer intends to establish a rigorous system of categories of thought, but rather a method and praxis to progressively approach the experience of reality. Strict operative approaches are always present wherever a craft or artistic process is still fully alive, and also wherever such productions relate to the actual territorial conditions of existence.

The first part of Operative Traditions describes the progressive mutation of the operative material conditions in the West, which became culturally conceived as a process of decline by many philosophers and historians. This decline requires a study of the empirical conditions of existence, showing how the modes of interaction with reality significantly changed during the last centuries.

Aiming to accomplish this task in the briefest way possible, it shall be described at several levels the crisis experienced in the West – and afterward in the East – when it comes to the issue of relating to means of power and when intending to gain operative mastery over such means. Whenever powerlessness is manifest in the case of an individual, group, corporation or nation that intends to gain mastery over means, and “pilot” them in a very specific direction, such individual, group, corporation or nation become eventually dependent (mostly through debt mechanisms) on the determinations of such means’ development, entering almost irreversibly into a vicious cycle where such impotency is then clearly shown in the fact that despite all ideological, economic, and political colourings, nobody is capable of answering the question in regards to what is the aim of the entire development of means and that of the economic resources. And yet the metaphysical, moral, and ethical crisis that are all related to the incapacity of men to establish new values based on completely new conditions of existence, was however somewhat surprisingly overcame and “healed” by the apparition of a completely new mode of relating to the world, where men started to progressively remain “out of the equation”… This was accomplished by the development of a new structure of power of a cybernetic nature that “feeds” – so to speak – on the deep nihilism of those very active men who, though unable to define aims, are given the chance to establish temporary control over the most varied means or contents.

The awareness and capacity on the part of the individual for identifying this system of techniques or Techno-System correspond to a vital aspect in both Julius Evola´s theory/phenomenology and Ernst Jünger´s perspectives on opus. If dominion and mastery on the part of the individual are to be accomplished in our times, such a quest is to be faced by employing the system as the main operative challenger, since the more the individual believes to “use” the advantages for control and exploitation provided by such system, the more he becomes controlled by the overall system as a fatal consequence.

In the case of Operative Traditions, technique is the determining factor for structuring consciousness in a very specific mode, a mode that is then transferred to the selfsame paradigms that instinctively determine not only the individual’s scientific conceptions, but also all thinking processes, to the extent that such operative disciplines can even deeply alter the psychosomatic reactions, gestures, and subconscious predispositions of the individual.

This analysis of the complex character of operative conditions of existence corresponds to the main contribution of the first part of Operative Traditions, where it shall outline the progressive dispersion of human responsibility at a strictly operative level, mainly due to the emergence of a completely new set of interactive and technical conditions.

* * *

The issue of technique is one of the greatest mysteries of Western thought, having being studied in depth by individuals during the last century (Lewis Mumford, Oswald Spengler, Ernst Jünger, Marshall McLuhan, Friedrich George Jünger, Gilbert Simondon, Jacques Ellul, Neil Postman, Jerry Mander…). Among all these authors Ernst Jünger was the first to perceive the revolutionary power of technique, and this perception clearly influenced some works of his brother Friedrich George. It is plausible to consider that these authors had a powerful influence on other authors like French philosopher Jacques Ellul – who during his life was devoted to studying the technique in a more detailed, sociological and theological way than Ernst Jünger – or even Julius Evola. When referring to the study of technique, it is convenient to first point out that we are not referring exclusively to engineering or to the study of technology… As we shall show in this book, in the English language the term technique is often equated with technology, and yet in French, German and Spanish there is still present a conceptual distinction between both terms. It can’t be a coincidence that the progressive marginalization of the historical development of technique as an object of study went in parallel to the progressive disappearance of strictly operative disciplines, traditional arts, and crafts, at the expense of a progressive predominance of speculative thought or science.

Ernst Jünger´s first writings arose to a very large extent from the experiences he gained in the battlefield during World War I, where the development and power of the industrial machinery of warfare was rendering human individuality into something extremely fragile, and when the irruption of new international infrastructures of power completely altered the previous modes of activity, disciplines, and methods employed within the military, and afterwards spreading into civil societies as well. The total mobilization[3] of all material factors intensively rebelled at progressively higher paces against all the bourgeoisie ideals of security that were based on a very speculative view of the human condition and society. Ernst Jünger profoundly captured how a new mode of organic development was taking place at an operative level; the entire conflict of powers between nations, banks, corporations and many other power-structures was taking place precisely in the operative “battlefield” where the efficiency and performance of machine conglomerates determined what political or economic entity would eventually become victorious. In this novel scheme of things, the ensemble formed by ideologies, political slogans, and ideals were rendered into propagandistic contents driven by technical means that were characterized by a very clear, rational, analytical and mechanistic nature…

In Der Arbeiter (1932), Ernst Jünger referred constantly to the latter idea and the crucial importance of focusing on the intrinsic power embedded in operation and technique. This essay, among some other writings of Ernst Jünger written before the 1950s, has roamed as mysterious testimonies to a way of seeing and perceiving the world that was on a constant quest for a new language adapted to the new conditions of existence. Hence, Ernst Jünger´s pursuit during those decades was that of intending to express in words the world he could only conceive as a symbolic conflict of diverse figures aiming for dominion, a clearly metaphysical struggle that every time it was projected into language became necessary degraded in regard to its pristine significance. The title of Ernst Jünger´s masterpiece (“Der Arbeiter”/English: The Worker) is extremely paradigmatic in this regard, since in no case did Jünger intend to describe a way of relating to the world conceived in terms of work, but rather a way of relating to the world which has to be now recovered as opus[4].

During the same decade in which Jünger published Der Arbeiter, Julius Evola – as aforementioned – had also produced the most grandiose philosophical framework potentially capable of sheltering and protecting the views of the German author from all the cultural distortions of those times, distortions that were already embedded in the structure of language. Evola´s philosophical work, characterized by a grandeur only comparable to that of a magnificent cathedral or temple, is however still awaiting to become illuminated by the new dawn of an integral Tradition, waiting for new guests who aim to become sheltered by such novel architecture of thought.

The heritage both authors provided to us is of extraordinary value. In the third part of this volume of Operative Traditions and in Operative Traditions – Volume II the main focus shall be in redefining and revaluing a domain of activity that in our times has embedded powerful operative elements, and that grants the chance of powerfully developing consciousness in convergence to the metaphysical powers that in act in the world. We are referring here to the domain of work.

* * *

Work – at all levels – has in Operative Traditions the chance of gaining a new dignity, not as a means of material production and satisfaction of needs (as is mainly considered by socialists and liberals), but as an activity characterised in most of its components with a highly operative character, especially in our highly techno-scientific times. This is exactly what Ernst Jünger referred to as dominion and the constitution of new modes of State – new castes – at the exact moment when all liberal, socialist, and Marxist worldviews exhaust their capacity to ideologically drive social, political, and economic developments. There is no other way to conceive this path as anything but  a magical path, redeemed from all modern occultism, traditionalism, and esotericism; that is, a path made effective, actual, empirical… This is also an ascetic path, but not in the sense of body mortification and repression, quite the contrary: in the affirmation of all bodily potentials, yet always intending to aim a higher and synthetic goal…

One necessary requisite in this third part of Operative Traditions is to emphasize how the technical factors develop the economical, so before acting on economics it is required to act on the operative aspect of the configurations of power. In our times the fact that the economic sub-function at a planetary level is so overwhelming and intense doesn´t necessarily imply that the whole process is less determined by the higher drives of a given structure or system. It is precisely the unawareness of such a system, our incapacity to operatively relate to it – and to selectively use its mean for our strictly autonomous purposes – which necessarily entails economic alienation (the need to believe in economic determinism, or that “money makes the world go around”) as a form of what Evola refers to as a mode of privation. In practical terms, this is equivalent to Evola´s idea of “riding the tiger” which eventually is affirmed in the emergence of a new Order of men characterized by very particular biogenetic and spiritual traits.

The progressive outlining of Ernst Jünger´s ideas in Der Arbeiter allows us to address the issue of technique as a key operative of magnitude. This approach shall also allow us to unlock all linguistic association between technique and machines, technique and technology, or technique and science. Only by integrating the spirit of technique, technique shall no longer constitute a force intended to be artificially used in order to strengthen a weak and ephemeral sense of the individual self, but rather shall serve as a force that strongly empowers a consubstantial dominion of means which relate to the actual power configurations present in the world.

This transition from a narrow individualistic relation to technique towards a relation to technique conceived as mastery and dominion corresponds to the transition Ernst Jünger refers to as the “individual” to the “type”… This transition – which can be highly traumatic for individuals anchored in a romanticist or bohemian view of life – also entails that all sociological references to “class” (that is, the social position of in individual based on a higher or lower attachment to material production or political predominance in the domain of 20th, 21st century State-nations) lose all practical and substantial validity amidst a deeply transformed world. Jünger´s concept of “type” resembles in practice the traditional idea of “caste”, or that which Frithjof Schuon referred to as the “the operative principle behind the phenomena of social distinction”[5]. The more an individual thinks in terms of “class”, the more he is determined by technique and economics (technical/economic alienation); the more an individual becomes a “type”, the more he can master techniques, developing in addition a novel mode of economic relations which surpasses any liberal or Marxist conception on the economic domain. The concept of “caste” is thus also, by extension, an operative magnitude, and has very little to do with the biological conception of “race”.

 The power of technique as an operative factor is mainly expressed in the economic domain when projected in a very specific activity: work. An insight into the nature of technique shall also allow us to present all the mystifications embedded in the selfsame term “work” as exclusively related to economic necessity. Hence, one of the inevitable corollaries of the former is to realise in the third part of Operative Traditions  that without an adequate focus in the operative/ascetic aspects of work, then domains such as modern technique, modern science, modern politics and modern ideologies can constitute the most dangerous counter-traditional forces in the sense that they are counter-operative and thus that they inevitably promote all the falsifications spread after the French Revolution and after the constitution of the Speculative Masonry. We could even admit that in this regard they also favor counter-initiation practices, in the sense René Guénon considered the esoteric concept.

[1] “Operative” is related to the aim of inner transformation or metanoia by means of opus. Opus, which is a term that is recovered from medieval accounts, corresponds to the idea of exerting towards perfection any form of activity, as a discipline that was good in itself, that had a magical character (opus magnum, opus magicum) and that is equivalent to the Hindu ideal of the karmayoga. In this context opus aims for achieving metanoia which entails a change of inner perception of physis. Peter Senge. La quinta disciplina. Barcelona: Granica. 1995

[2] Julius Evola, Saggi Sull’idealismo magico, Todi-Roma, Atanòr, 1925

[3] Ernst Junger, Die totale Mobilmachung (Berlin: Verlag der Zeitkritik, 1931); English translation: “Total Mobilization,” trans. Joel Golb and Richard Wolin, in Richard Wolin, ed., The Heidegger Controversy: A Critical Reader (New York: Columbia University Press, 1991)

[4] Opus, a term that is recovered from medieval accounts, corresponds to the idea of exerting towards perfection any form of activity, as a discipline that was good in itself, that had a magical character (opus magnum, opus magicum) and that is equivalent to the Hindu ideal of the karmayoga. In this context opus aims for achieving metanoia which entails a change of inner perception of physis. Peter Senge. La quinta disciplina. Barcelona: Granica. 1995

[5] Frithjof Schuon, Seyyed Hossein Nasr-The Essential Frithjof Schuon (Library of Perennial Philosophy)-World Wisdom (2005) pp 196